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Concerns raised about gender and religious discrimination at Derby Muslim Free School

The Derby Telegraph has reported that Al-Madinah School, a Muslim Free School that opened in Derby in September 2012, is forcing all female members of staff to wear a hijab (whether Muslim or not), and is requiring girls to sit at the back of classrooms. The Sunday Times is further reporting that reading fairy tales, singing and stringed instruments are banned due to being ‘forbidden in Islam’, and the school’s (non-Muslim) head and deputy head were bullied into resignation by the governing body due to the latter being belittled and sidelined as a result of her lack of faith – leading to both lodging official complaints of bullying with the Department for Education (DfE). The school is already being investigated by the DfE due to potential financial mismanagement. The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has advocated for robust and detailed scrutiny of Free School applications by religious groups, has expressed alarm at the news.

The school also reportedly devotes several hours to prayers, with one staff member anonymously saying that ‘They have three prayers every day, an hour of Koranic studies and an hour of Islamic studies as well as Arabic. They are not following the national curriculum, there isn’t enough time.’

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented, ‘Religious dress codes that apply to all employees regardless of their beliefs and gender-based segregation in the classroom are almost certainly unlawful. To see them in a state school – an institution that should embody the highest principles of openness and equality is shameful. The fact that these practices occur are a symptom of the continuing failure of government to regulate effectively the practice of state schools with a religious character.’

In July plans to open a Muslim Free School in Halifax were abandoned following concerns about extremism.

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson at richy@humanism.org.uk or on 020 7324 3072.

Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on ‘faith’ schools: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/religion-and-schools/faith-schools

View the BHA’s table of types of school with a religious character: https://humanism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/schools-with-a-religious-character.pdf

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.

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